Middle East

In late March 2016, I attended some Wikimedia gatherings in the Middle East: The WikiArabia conference in Amman (Jordan), a Technical Meetup in Ramallah (Palestinian territories), and the Wikimedia Hackathon in Jerusalem (Israel).

I gave an introduction to the many technical areas in Wikimedia anyone can contribute to. I also gave an introduction how to use Phabricator, the project management suite used (for mostly technical aspects) by the Wikimedia community which allows managing and following progress in projects and collaborating with developers.

As I love discussing society and politics I was not sure initially how much I’d have open and blunt conversations. But on the first evening I was already sitting together with folks from Tunesia, Egypt and Saudi-Arabia who were comparing the situations in their home countries. People also allowed me to learn a little bit about how daily life is in Iraq or Saudi-Arabia.



After a short trip to Petra, we spent an entire day to get to and cross the border between Jordan and the West Bank. If you look at the mere distance it feels ridiculous. It definitely makes you appreciate open borders.

At the border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank

At the border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank

Afterwards, we were very lucky that Maysara (one of our hosts) took the time and his car to drive us around in the Westbank to visit a bunch of spots, pass settlements, look at walls, or wonder which streets to take (sometimes a checkpoint with a soldier pointing a machine gun at you helps making decisions).

The old city center of Nablus

The old city center of Nablus

Graffiti on graffiti in Ramallah

Graffiti on graffiti in Ramallah

At some point, Maysara simplified it in a single quoted sentence: For Israelis it’s fear. For Palestinians it’s humiliation.

Street sign in the West Bank

Street sign in the West Bank

Imagery of dead fighters in Nablus

Imagery of dead fighters in Nablus

In Israel, we walked through Jerusalem’s old town, visited Masada and took a bath in the Dead Sea.

Dead Sea: Past war zones

Dead Sea: Past war zones

View from Masada

View from Masada (the squares were siege camps)

On the last day I visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial with some co-workers (thanks to Moriel for organizing it). It’s obviously an activity you cannot “look forward to”. I am still impressed by our guide who explained and summarized history extremely well.
The architecture of Yad Vashem makes you go through several rooms on the left and right of the passageway in a chronological way and our guide mentioned several times that you “cannot yet see what is coming a few rooms (means: a few years) later”, and the question “Why did Jewish citizens not flee” got answered by “Where would you try to escape to if even outside of ghettos and concentration camps everybody is hostile”. Which explained very well the self-understanding why to found a state for Jews.

I am incredibly thankful to those many great people I could meet and who shared their points of views on the social and political situation, always in a pretty reflected and respectful way despite of all the frustration being around.
And whatever my question was to locals, the answer pretty much always was “It’s more complicated than you thought.”


Afterwards I spent some time in India to attend Rootconf, visit GeekSkool to learn a lot about why the concept works, and attend GNOME.Asia (thanks to Shobha and everybody organizing it!).

Hardware recycling via badge lanyards

Hardware recycling via badge lanyards

Breakdance competitions

Breakdance competitions

In a society where the path of welfare could be expressed by “walk → motorbike → car”, I received some grins admitting I had never had a motorbike ride before. In Indian traffic I’d call that an experience, for a tourist like me.

GNOME.Asia 2016 venue

GNOME.Asia 2016 venue

GNOME.Asia 2016 music

GNOME.Asia 2016 music

As usual, it’s wonderful to finally meet folks in person who you’ve only spoken to online beforehand, and to hang out with old friends. (I sound like a broken record here. I am sorry I could not see everybody. I’ll be back.)

Posted in gnome, lang-en, misc, non-technical, politics, wikimedia | Comments Off on Travel.

War Porn.

Photo of the book.

Sometimes, when some individual, group, institution publishes, releases, leaks a cruel video of this planet’s conflicts, media decide not to show it or only show a (edited) screenshot.
I usually end up trying to find the uncut video on the internet because I naively believe I can better realize how cruel things are when I force myself to watch it.
So I constantly feel the need to defend my behavior against accusations of voyeurism and dehumanization: “Can’t you imagine the rest anyway? Haven’t you played video games and watched enough fictitious movies?”

A few months ago I bought the photo book “War Porn” by Christoph Bangert (a photo journalist in war regions). The photos are somewhere between disturbing and disgusting.
Bangert also covers the aspect of self-censorship as a photographer or publisher, hence for some of the pages you have to decide yourself whether to break the perforation to see the image included on that page.

The book’s introduction puts it into simple words that I could not find myself:
“What’s the point of showing these things? We know that wars and disasters are horrible events. But are we really aware of just HOW horrible they are? Yes? Why are we so shocked by these pictures, then?”

Posted in lang-en, non-technical, politics | 2 Comments

Wikimedia in Google Code-in 2015

(Google Code-in and the Google Code-in logo are trademarks of Google Inc.)

Google Code-in 2015 is over. As a co-admin and mentor for Wikimedia (one of the 14 organizations who took part and provided mentors and tasks) I can say it’s been crazy as usual. :)

To list some of the students’ achievements:

  • More than a dozen of MediaWiki extensions converted to using the extension registration mechanism
  • Confirmation dialogs in UploadWizard and TimedMediaHandler use OOjs-UI
  • Vagrant roles created for the EmbedVideo and YouTube extensions
  • Two more scraping functions in the html-metadata node.js library (used by Citoid)
  • Many MediaWiki documentation pages marked as translatable
  • lc, lcfirst, uc and ucfirst magic words implemented in jqueryMsg
  • Screenshots added to some extension homepages on
  • ReCaptchaNoCaptcha of the ConfirmEdit extension uses the UI language for the captcha
  • MobileFrontend, MultimediaViewer, UploadWizard, Newsletter, Huggle, and Pywikibot received numerous improvements (too many to list)
  • Long deprecated wfMsg* calls were removed from many extensions
  • The CommonsMetadata extension parses vcards in the src field
  • The MediaWiki core API exposes “actual watchers” as in “action=info”
  • MediaWiki image thumbnails are interlaced whenever possible
  • Kiwix is installable/moveable to the SD card, automatically opens the virtual keyboard for “find in page”, (re)starts with the last open article
  • imageinfo queries in MultimediaViewer are cached
  • The Twinkle gadget‘s set of article maintenance tags was audited and its XFD module has preview functionality
  • The RandomRootPage extension got merged into MediaWiki core
  • One can remove items from Gather collections
  • A new MediaWiki maintenance script imports content from text files
  • Pywikibot has action=mergehistory support implemented
  • Huggle makes a tone when someone writes something
  • Many i18n issues fixed and strings improved
  • Namespace aliases added to MediaWiki’s export dumps
  • The Translate extension is compatible with PHP 7
  • …and many, many, more.

Numerous GCI participants also blogged about their GCI experience with Wikimedia:

The Grand Prize winners and finalists will be announced on February 8th.

Congratulations to our many students and 35 mentors for fixing 461 tasks, and thank you for your hard work and your contributions to free software and free knowledge.
See you around on IRC, mailing lists, Phabricator tasks, and Gerrit changesets!

Graph with weekly numbers of Wikimedia GCI tasks

Posted in computer, lang-en, wikimedia | 2 Comments

2015: Music.

Publishing my usual list of awkward and never complete pop music preferences of 2015.

Grimes’ “Art Angels” is probably my favorite album of 2015. Halsey’s “Badlands” debut and the latest releases by Purity Ring and Chvrches came close.

In general Angel Haze was the most dominant artist in my playlist. I also enjoyed Little Simz’ “A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons” debut and FKA Twigs’ “M3LL155X”.

Other helpful artists were We are Twin, Leftfield (with a surprisingly great 2015 release), Lowell, TĀLĀ, Camila Moreno, and Tei Shi, and Autobahn.

Posted in lang-en, music, non-technical | 1 Comment

Google Code-in 2015 has started!

(Google Code-in and the Google Code-in logo are trademarks of Google Inc.)

Another round of Google Code-in started yesterday. Together with Nemo and Petr I am one of the organization administrators for the Wikimedia community.

In this year’s edition of Google Code-in, students can choose from tasks provided by the following organizations / projects: Apertium, Copyleft Games, Drupal, FOSSASIA, Haiku, KDE, MetaBrainz, OpenMRS, RTEMS, SCoRe, Sugar Labs, Systers, Ubuntu, and Wikimedia.

If you are a 13-17 year old pre-university student interested in getting involved into free and open source software development, check out Google Code-in.
It is a great opportunity to learn about distributed software projects, to find out which areas of software development you are interested in, to gather some on-hands experience, to contribute to “real” projects out there used by millions of people, and to make new friends all over the world.

Posted in computer, gnome, lang-en, wikimedia | Comments Off on Google Code-in 2015 has started!

Prioritizing volunteer contributions in free software development

Wikimedia is an organization which has both volunteers and paid folks working together in software development, with many software projects and different stakeholders involved.
In Wikimedia, there is currently some discussion how to improve the code review process. One aspect is reducing our code review queues and waiting times, with a focus on contributions provided by volunteers.
There are numerous successful free and open source software projects with a similar setup of companies and volunteers involved (Mozilla, Openstack, …) so I’m curious if your project has also investigated similar questions and if there is some knowledge and experience to share.

  • In your project, do maintainers commit to review contributed patches in a certain timeframe, like “all patches receive a first review comment within four days”? How is this process implemented? Do you think it is successful?
  • With an existing backlog of patches that did not manage to attract a review, what do you with ancient and rotting patches? Do you just abandon them after a certain timeframe in your code review tool to get a “cleaner slate”? Or do you leave them open to (theoretically) allow someone to find them and them pick up?
  • Do you have any specific workflow in place that provides feedback to patch authors who contribute a patch to a rather unmaintained repositories that noone feels responsible for (anymore)? Do you signal the lack of maintainers and encourage contributors to step up as maintainers? How?
  • Do you have a workflow in place to specifically prioritize the review of patches contributed by volunteers? How efficient is it?

I’d be very interested in hearing how your project handles these issues. Needless to say, links to documents are welcome. Thanks!

Posted in computer, lang-en, metrics, wikimedia | 1 Comment

Wikimedia: Phabricator, Tech Community Metrics

Trying to quickly summarize what’s been either on my plate or what’s been generally cooking in Wikimedia, before I postpone writing that again…


Tech Community Metrics

Recently also spent more time with Tech Community Metrics. Wikimedia has some metrics about code repository activity (Git), code review activity (Gerrit, in the long run to be replaced by Phabricator Differential), mailing lists and IRC. It’s available at backed by MetricsGrimoire and supported by Bitergia. When we migrated from Bugzilla to Phabricator Maniphest we initially lost any statistics on bug tracker activity but now there is an initial Phabricator Maniphest backend in MetricsGrimoire available.
Again, all this is work in progress and needs way more fine-tuning (see our project workboard).
Posted in computer, lang-en, metrics, phabricator, wikimedia | 1 Comment

GNOME.Asia Summit 2015 (part 2).

Continuing with the first day: Shobha Tyagi elaborated on the acceptance problems when moving users from Microsoft Windows to Linux based systems at her university. That talk resulted in interesting follow-up discussions on regional differences.

Shobha's talk

Shobha’s talk

Later on, lightning talks took place.

Olav banging the lightning talk gong

Olav banging the lightning talk gong

On the second day, Alexandre Franke explained the GNOME release cycle.

Kukuh Syafaat showed how he uses his guitar, keyboard and computer running Ardour, Guitarix, LMMS and the JACK audio connection kit to make music with GNOME.

Kukuh's talk

Kukuh’s talk

And Yantisa Akhadi presented OpenStreetMap’s impressive improvements in covering Asia, often leaving commercial map services like Bing or Google far behind.

Yantisa's talk

Yantisa’s talk

The second day ended with a thunderstorm. It created a refreshing breeze in the main hall and made the frogs speak up outside the hall.

Again, kudos to the organization team (great work!) and thanks to the sponsors!


This was the fourth GNOME.Asia summit I attended. Compared to GUADEC (the annual European conference), GNOME.Asia seems to have more fluctuation among attendees (as travelling can be more expensive in Asia due to its size and flight costs in comparison to costs of living?). There also seem to be more attendees that show up being curious what that international conference at the university is about, so it feels good to have some “how you can get involved” talks covering coding, documentation, translation, QA / bug triaging, engagement / marketing, …

GNOME.Asia summits also offer more talks with a regional focus. Would have loved to attend the “Open Source Software in the shoes industry” or “My experience as a farmer, trader and principle of village affairs in contributing to BlankOn” talks – unfortunately they were at the same time as my own talk.
Still it was a gift to speak with many community members while walking around, grabbing coffee or food, or just standing outside enjoying the sun.

Terima kasih.

Posted in computer, gnome, lang-en | 3 Comments

GNOME.Asia Summit 2015.

It’s that time of the year again: GNOME.Asia Summit at Universitas Indonesia in Depok (Indonesia)! On Thursday some workshops took place how to contribute to GNOME translation and documentation and how to start coding.
Today (Friday) is Day 1 of the conference.

Entrance to the main hall

Entrance to the main hall

The main hall (before opening)

The main hall (before opening)

There were welcoming speeches by the local organization team, Kat Gerasimova of GNOME, Mirna Adriani, PhD (Dean of the computer science faculty) and Aidil Chendramata (from the Ministry of Communication and Informatics).

Later today I am going to give an introduction to handling (“triaging”) bug reports in GNOME’s issue tracking system.

A big thanks to the local organization team and the many sponsors of this conference for making this possible!

Posted in computer, gnome, lang-en | Comments Off on GNOME.Asia Summit 2015.

GNOME Bugzilla: Your Bugs and your Product Overview.

Bugzilla logo by Dave Shea

  • The UNCONFIRMED bug status (which can be disabled per product) will be removed as it is mostly not used and confuses reporters. Tickets with UNCONFIRMED status will be merged into NEW status as announced on desktop-devel-list and at the top of every GNOME Bugzilla page.
    If you are a GNOME project maintainer and want to keep the UNCONFIRMED status for your GNOME Bugzilla product you can opt out until the end of February.
  • I encourage you to give the product pages and your user page a try!
    They have become more useful:
    Browse Product

    Browse Product

    • Target Milestones (if existing), Priorities (if actually used and not just kept as the “normal” default) and Severities are now listed first, to get a quick overview for those projects who might use Bugzilla to do some project planning (so far I have not seen that much though). Static information like components or versions now comes after.
    • Versions now sorts by newest versions first. You should be more interested in bugs reported in recent versions.
    • The previously shown needless NEEDINFO queries by date were moved to the side bar and merged into one query. The query results are sorted by last change.
    • In the side bar, “Bugs without a response” is a link again (though it is not exactly what it says, it’s rather a query for reports with only a single comment, hence also a mismatch between the displayed number and the search result number when you click it)
    • Moved “New Patches” into its own new “Patches” section under “New and unreviewed”. All patch related information for a project is now in a single place. Click it and review a patch!
    • The “GNOME-love bugs” query shows reports that have been recently changed first – more likely that recently changed ones are not outdated and something new contributors could work on.
    • The “activity” link next to “Git repository” could give contributors a quick idea how maintained the project is (only works if the project is hosted in GNOME Git).
    Describe User

    Describe User

    • Your patches are now listed right after “What bugs are assigned to me” and “On which bugs do I need to provide input” and above the long list of “Open issues” that you once upon a time filed. Patches now also display the summary of the corresponding bug report. (Still have to remove the useless patch ID.)
  • With above changes I’d like to make the “Browse Product” and “Describe User” pages give answers to “What is important?” and “What should I work on / review?”. I’d appreciate feedback if that’s considered helpful. For itself this works pretty well, as you can see on its product page.
  • Not yet available: I want the frontpage to look like this (thanks to jimmac for the custom icons; ignore the wrong color of the top bar):
    Potential future frontpage

    Potential future frontpage

    This was already live for a few minutes but I reverted this change as the server started cycling through cached older versions (no idea what happened), plus I have the feeling that the skin handling is still problematic (my fearless guinea pig Shaun still had Bugzilla’s “Dust” skin enabled in his user settings so things looked pretty broken). Need to make sure that everybody uses the GNOME skin before doing further custom skin changes.
  • 18 months ago I blogged a series of Bugzilla related posts. Though this focused on Wikimedia Bugzilla, there might be some helpful information or tweaks you are not aware of:
Posted in bugzilla, computer, gnome, lang-en | 10 Comments